The Disney Odyssey treks ever onward, friends, and this time we’re back with our final movie of the Bronze Age – it’s an oft-overlooked animal-centric tale inspired in equal parts by Charles Dickens and Billy Joel. The Fella was off at rehearsal, so this marks the first Disney Odyssey episode sans-Fella. So, to revisit this gritty, dog-eat-dog food world of New York City in the late 80s, I invited my dear friends Josh and Stace to watch with me!
Stace is a fellow writer and also a big tough city lawyer as well as a widely recognized animal lover. Josh is a stage combatant and performer, as well as a noted lover of 80’s music, and both he and Stace are also performers at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. There was no question that they were both highly qualified to weigh in on this final film of the Bronze Age.
The Film: Oliver and Company (1988)
- This is the final movie of the Disney Bronze Age – and the transitional elements are definitely in play. The animation quality has been upped considerably here, when compared to previous Bronze Age films, but it does not quite stand on the same level as its following Renaissance Era films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, etc.
- The film’s plot is based loosely on Charles Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist.
- Cast members include Dom DeLuise (in his first Disney voice role), Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Joey Lawrence, Cheryl Lee Ralph, and Cheech Marin.
- The almost-cast of this film offers a world of curious possibilities: Sir Patrick Stewart was almost the voice of Francis the bulldog, and Marlon Brando was offered the role of Sykes (but turned it down flat).
- Although much of the film was still hand-drawn, many of the inanimate objects were done on computer – a hint at the major leaps ahead in CGI that were soon to come.
- Quick cameos of Peg, Jock, and Trusty from Lady and the Tramp and Pongo from 101 Dalmatians can be spotted during the song “Why Should I Worry” and “Streets of Gold.”
- The real brand names that appear as background advertising in the street scenes in New York were done without actual sponsorship – the animators believed New York simply wouldn’t be New York without the advertising.
- The film debuted the same week as Don Bluth’s number one at the box office The Land Before Time, consequently making Oliver and Company fourth at the box office. It was reviewed generally as fun and harmless, but most agreed it would not stand up with classics like Pinocchio or Fantasia.
- Similar to The Rescuers, we have an extended slice-of-life montage opening set to music – this time, featuring Huey Lewis singing “Once Upon A Time in New York City”. Oliver’s life, it turns out, starts off pretty badly.
- Josh: “Man, he should have had a Dodgers cap instead of a Yankees cap.” Me and Stace: “…should he?” Josh: “Yeah. (pause) Cause he ends up with Dodger.” *rimshot*
- “Why Should I Worry” is the most Billy Joel this song could possibly be – it even sounds a lot like “River of Dreams.”
- It’s official. Tito is the Pepe Prawn of this movie.
- Josh, seeing DeSoto and Roscoe’s red and blue collars: “See? Look, in the 80’s, Democrats and Republicans could join together in hating the poor.”
- None of us could remember why precisely Fagin is endebted to Sykes, so we made up a backstory about Fagin having gambling problems and losing all the money he was supposed to use to pay back Sykes from an even prior debt… it’s complicated. No wonder there was no room for it in the script.
- A brief discussion was had on what classes each of the Fagin gang would play in a D&D campaign – Dodger’s a rogue, Francis is a bard, Tito is a thief, Einstein is a barbarian/fighter, obviously…
- Ok, but, Georgette. Guys. Georgette. Bette Midler tears into the script with an over-the-top Broadway number that only she could perform this way – and there has never been a poodle so pampered and so obviously self-obsessed. It is pure gold.
- Josh: “Definitely one of my favorite parts of this entire film is the fact that the other dogs actually bark, but Georgette literally says the word ‘bark’ repeatedly.”
- Aly: “I just realized something… I was having a lot of feelings about Billy Joel’s New York accent and I realized: Dodger has a New York accent and a red neckerchief. Do you guys know who ELSE has a New York accent and a red neckerchief?!” Josh and Stace: “Um…..”
….JACK KELLY IN NEWSIES. Aly: “So much of my childhood just suddenly made sense.”
- Mid-movie check-in: …yep. Tito is still hilarious.
- Sykes is driving his car through the subway in pursuit of the others – Aly: “What? In what universe is the subway not PACKED with people, even at this hour of the night?”
- Aaaaaand there we have this movie’s Gruesome Villain Death. Bam. Thanks, train.
- Also, it’s amazing that Jenny’s birthday party is celebrated and attended by her butler, her cat, her dog, a homeless guy, and various stray dogs. But no parents. Cause that’s just how it is.
- Also also, for some unknown reason Jenny seems to be cosplaying as Little Orphan Annie for her birthday party.
Up Next: Get your flippers ready… it’s finally time to swim with The Little Mermaid!
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